Writing Insanity

November. National Novel Writing Month. It’s a brotherhood of insane writers, pounding out 1,700 words per day for thirty days.
Since I’m rather unsure if I am meant to be a novelist, I may be a rebel again this year.
In 2014 I wrote that path. It netted four short stories, one of which I fleshed out into a 70,000-word novel.
A novel I pitched to three agents this past summer. All of them said the same things:

  • Women’s fiction must be at least 80,000 words and closer to 100,000 is better
  • The stakes need to be upped for at least one of the characters

All that to tell me I needed to rethink the story and add another 10,000 words at least.
But it hasn’t called to me.
However, I’ve planned and plotted a follow-up novel starring the youngest woman from that story. I could write that story in November.
Or I could write the next novella or two for the Christian romance “series” set in Sweet Grove, Texas.
After all, my debut in that Kindle World will be here in two weeks.


I’m hoping readers will be panting for the next installment, a story featuring minor characters from this first one.

What about doing something fun?

I’ve been jotting ideas for another fantasy novel for several months. I want to tackle the idea of a realm that exists outside of time encroaching on a world that exists inside the restrictions and constructions of time.

My thought is to have the mentor figure and the villain brothers who live in the timeless realm. They’re competing (as brothers do) and have gotten caught up in trying to trip each other up…by planting prophecies and information along the timeline in the world where time exists.
The story could include elemental magic with atypical sources.

But I really don’t have a story for it. Just a ton of vague ideas. And that’s NOT the best way to be a winner during National Novel Writing Month.
With the release coming up on the 15th and the content edits for REALITY EVER AFTER due on the 13th, I’m not certain I’ll have the focus for NaNoWriMo.

But how can I NOT do it? I’ve done it for three years and won every time. It’s such a morale booster.

Sure, it’s a little bit crazy, too. Especially when I only have three days per week to get my words written. And I’d want to finish by November 22 because we’re heading to the Oregon coast to spend Thanksgiving weekend with my sister.

If I’m not finished, the story will be hanging over my head the entire time.

Part of me wants to write something “just for fun” and another part of me knows I need to stop procrastinating and get stories down on paper.

What’s your advice? What would you do?

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What I’m Writing for National Novel Writing Month

National Novel Writing Month is officially here. And I’m in the middle of the writing, which is why you will only see Monday posts from me during the month of November.

You know how I asked all of you for help deciding what to write about? I had four fantabulous ideas. I explained all of them to you here.

I even ran a poll on Facebook.

And then I woke up the week before November started with a fully formed new idea.

It happened to fit closer to my brand than any of the other ideas.

Worse yet (or is that better yet), I had asked women to pray specifically about what I should write next. The same day I got the idea, two of them messaged me to tell me they had prayed for me that very morning.

You know, the one when I woke up with an idea that wasn’t the one I had been outlining most of the previous week.

The one about elves that I was dying to write and all of you encouraged me to give in to the non-brand urge.

The morning when this new idea came to me, I couldn’t drum up even an ounce of excitement about Evendon and the elves. Magic held no appeal. Except for the romantic kind that joined two hearts by true love.

May I introduce you to an inspirational romance?

A cover I roughed out to use at nanowrimo.org
A cover I roughed out to use at nanowrimo.org

Abbie Andrews adores her job as a home healthcare aide and piano teacher. Does it bother her that her friends are about to graduate from college and start big time careers? Maybe a little.

When she meets the great-grandson of one long-time patient, things get a little wacky. Evan Winters is handsome and heartbroken. His initial anger turns to begrudging acceptance. Until his grandmother’s funeral.

Ex-soldier Evan Winters has no intention of giving his heart to the presumptuous pianist. No matter how much she smells like Spring or makes his heart sing. When she avoids him after Grandma Fedora’s funeral, he figures that’s the end of things.

Until a chance meeting brings her into his arms. Enter a matchmaking little brother who nurtures dreams of using Uncle Sam’s money to fund his college education, and things get a little interesting.

Will Evan find the faith he needs to convince Abbie that he’s more than a broken string on an antique piano? Can Abbie surrender her expectations to embrace the melody Evan awakens in her heart?

Oh yeah. This is technically an inspirational romance since there will be faith-based motivations, especially in Abbie’s life.

So, I thank you Abbie and Donna for the prayers. And, yes, I named my heroine after you because nothing else seemed to fit.

Wish me well. I plan to write 50,000 words or more before eating turkey and stuffing on Thanksgiving Day.

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Still feeling grateful in August

So did you guys miss it when I didn’t post my week of gratitude memes last Saturday?

Sometimes, I feel like these posts go out into a void. No comments. No likes.

Okay, that sounded like whining. Which is totally the opposite of gratitude.

On to this week’s memes!

Monday

D221

Yep. Guacamole is a healthy addition to nachos (which aren’t healthy no matter what. Sorry. It bums me out too.)

Tuesday

D222

Naps are a thing of wonder. Especially when I have a headache. Or don’t feel well.

 

 

 

 

Wednesday

D223

First I had no patio. Then we had extreme heat. I need some quiet time in the sunshine.

Thursday

D224 I love my house. I love the office I have here. Home is paradise for me.  Aren’t I one lucky woman?

 

 

Friday

D225

And there’s more to come.

What are you grateful for? Maybe I’ll make it into a meme. Next month.

Bring on 2016 and My New Year’s Theme

Can you believe the year is 2016? What happened to 2015? Didn’t I just post something about my focus for the year?

Apparently, it’s been twelve months or 365 days since that amazing post.

Remember how my focus for 2014 was “be the change you want to see”?

Then I decided to get an attitude adjustment in 2015 with a little “accentuate the positive” encouragement.

positive-attitude quotespositive

As the year sped toward completion, my creative brain began plotting how to make my campaign epic in the new year.

Enter Thirty Days of Thanksgiving.

You saw the posts on Facebook, right? What a great way to introduce the American holiday held the fourth Thursday of November.

You know, Thanksgiving Day. It’s my favorite of all the holidays (and it’s not because of the cornbread stuffing).

All this thankfulness got me thinking. Who can list all they are thankful for in a single month? It would take a year or more to even scratch the surface of how blessed we are.

A year of thanksgiving, then? My mind churned the title through its many layers of imagination and editing.

In the end, I settled on 365 Days of Gratitude.

Such a nice ring to that, don’t you think?

Which means, of course, that there are 366 days in 2016. You know because it’s a Leap Year.

Why can’t the Earth make it’s way around the sun in 365 days? Why does it have to take 365 days and six hours? That means we have to add an extra day every four years. It messes up the perfect synchronicity that is February and March.

Wait a minute!

I’m practicing the attitude of gratitude in 2016. Let’s try a new vein of thought here. I’m thankful for February 29.

However, I’m not changing my Twitter hashtag. I want my posts to reappear in years to come when anyone happens to search #365DaysofGratitude.

Maybe this thing will go viral. People everywhere will express their gratitude for the everyday things we take for granted. You know like waking up. Having air to breathe. Walking to the sink to turn on water for a refreshing drink (not everyone in the world can do this, you know).

What would the world be like if every single person
displayed an attitude of gratitude?

Join me in sharing your appreciation this year, and let’s find out.

Feel free to follow my hashtag on Twitter. Retweet the daily graphics I’m making and sharing. Make some of your own. Share them everywhere.

For example, this is today's tweetable meme
For example, this is today’s tweetable meme

Let’s start a revolution of gratitude.

What are you feeling grateful for today? Could you come up with 365 366 things for which to express heartfelt gratitude?

There’s so much to be thankful for this year

Givethanks sunrise

If you had asked me in January if I thought 2014 was going to be a good year. My answer would have be a solid no.

After all, who wants to say goodbye to their mother? Watch so many in the family weep? Wake up in tears for weeks on end (if able to sleep at all)?

But God is faithful. He felt my wounds and wanted to comfort me.

This year, I have surged forward in my writing career. Am I published? Not yet. But I do have a publishing contract (more on that later).

I am also in the process of gaining a daughter (maybe two if my other son can figure out what he wants to do). I love my sons. I’m especially grateful not to have shared my home with hormonal teenage girls. I’m excited about getting a fully grown daughter!

There is so much to be thankful for – aside from the rudimentary things: life, air to breath, roof over my head, car to drive.

I know a few of my regular readers have had some struggles this year, too. I hope they’ll chime in and share a blessing or two in the comments.

What are you thankful for this year?

What is a holiday – really?

A holiday is when you don’t have to go to work. If that is the true definition, every person who is retired from employment, or unemployed, experiences a holiday each and every day of the year.

Merriam-Webster says a holiday is “a special day of celebration when one is exempt from work or specifically a day marked by a general suspension of work in commemoration of an event.” Of course, the first full definition listed is simply “holy day.”

Ah, yes. A holy day. Something specific to religious celebration and thus not politically correct to address in polite conversation. As you’ve long suspected, political correctness falls further down my list of priorities than simple straightforward honest expression.

My list of “holy day”s

As for days of religious significance, I would mark three: Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving.

In my mind, all three of these days draw special attention to the One in my world to whom I ascribe deity and offer worship. In honor of political correctness, I want everyone to understand these dates reflect my personal opinion and aren’t meant to infringe on anyone’s freedom to disagree.

Even though Christmas, like almost all “holy days” on our traditional calendar, has pagan roots, I consider it the day to honor the birth of Jesus Christ. He is a historical figure so my celebration of his birth should be no more offensive than honoring February 12 as Abraham Lincoln’s birthday.

In my world, this date involves revisiting the account of Christ’s birth as recorded in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. This generally happens in the wee, dark hours of December 25. Afterwards, my family does paganistic things like opening Christmas stockings and unwrapping gifts beneath the twinkling lights of a Christmas tree.

In the spring, Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is a foundational doctrine for the sect called Christianity. For me, it offers hope that transcends the life I now live.

Easter always falls on Sunday. My family attends church services (as we do each Sunday of the year) and worships the living Savior. Afterwards, we feast on ham and buttered noodles (sacrilegious according to Old Testament dietary guidelines) and play games. Laughter is a staple around our table.

As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts on the subject, my favorite holiday is Thanksgiving. Although it is a manmade day, it was founded on the principal of giving thanks to God. Our family shares one thing we’re thankful for as we surround the table laden with turkey, stuffing and all the traditional trimmings.

My list of commemorative celebrations

How crazy is it that in a country where the federal government claims eleven national holidays, I consider only three to be “holy days”? One of my holidays isn’t even considered to be a “national holiday” to the U.S. government.

Bonus points to you if you can list these eleven holidays and their dates (without checking either your calendar or an internet search engine). Can you do it? Make sure to take credit in the comments if you can.

In my family, we celebrate January 1 with food and games. Sometimes a large crowd gathers and other times it is just the four who reside under our roof. In case you’re wondering, this is New Year’s Day, and Uncle Sam consents to call this a holiday (not that I need his approval).

Other dates that fall on neither my nor the national register are Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day. Perhaps these are important days in your world. Aren’t you glad you’re free to observe them – even if you have to call in sick or take a personal day from your place of employment to do so?

My family ushers in the barbecuing season on Memorial Day. No, this isn’t what the day is supposed to be about. Most of the time, it is also near my wedding anniversary, so my husband and I have been known to fly the coop together during this holiday.

Both my mother and grandmother actually took flowers and visited the graves of people who had passed away on this day. That is a more accurate celebration for a holiday that was originally known as “Decoration Day.” You guessed it. People actually decorated the graves of soldiers with flowers on this day. Some people consider it the beginning of summer recreation (making my barbecuing tradition less blasphemous).

For many years, July 4th was a family gathering with a picnic and birthday cake. Not in honor of Independence Day (the official name of the holiday), but in honor of my only niece’s birthday. Now, she’s an adult. We still like to fire up the barbie and the kid’s like to blow money on fireworks.

Amidst all off these dates, we have other special days known as “birthdays.” I won’t bog you down with the actual calendar numbers, but our family likes to celebrate these days. I’ve even lobbied for this day being granted as a day off from traditional employment.

Around here, I like to make the person’s favorite meal for dinner and whatever sort of dessert they want for their “birthday cake.” My sons believe I’m a terrible person because I stopped wrapping up packages for them on their 19th birthday. Cards and dinners, I’m still on top of that, but why does a birthday have to be about getting gifts?

For years, we celebrated Labor Day by going camping. We wanted to get one last hurrah in before the drudgery of school set in for the kids. Now that we’re all finished with school (well, my youngest has one more year of college), we might have a barbecue and play games.

My actual list of holidays numbers less than eleven, unless you count the birthdays individually. If you do that, I have eleven special days every year – in perfect harmony with Uncle Sam (well, except for the actual dates and significance).

Your list

Please chime in with comments about those days you find significant on your calendar of events. You know, special days of “celebration when you are exempt from work in commemoration of an event.”

Don’t forget to take the poll. Share it with your friends. Don’t you wonder what they consider the most commemorative days of the year?

The Art of being a Hostess

Like with most things in life, exceptional hostessing is an art of fine degrees. Some women have the gift of creating a warm welcoming atmosphere and fine food, all at the same time. Others are willing to get the book and do the work to make it appear they have that touch.

I am neither of those women. In fact, the idea of hosting a large quantity of people, even family, in my home and being responsible for their every comfort sends me into a semi-comatose state. You can find me huddling beneath my covers babbling nonsense.

Over the years, I’ve gotten better at hiding that reaction. Still, it circles like a vulture over the corpse of my first failed attempt at being a hostess.

I was a young wife and younger mother. My husband and I had three other couples over to our 1200 square foot home. I was preparing a fine dinner (and I didn’t even know what that meant).

For weeks, I had combed through recipes in the volumes I owned. (Yes, before the days of Google searches, we thumbed through books). I found an exceptional recipe for an appetizer and a savory sounding meat glaze.

I decided to keep the side dishes simple: baked potatoes and green beans. I needed to focus on these new recipes. I didn’t want to press my luck by overreaching my culinary skills. (I asked the ladies to bring salad or dessert.)

The sweet and sour chicken wings were labor intensive. There was double dipping in egg and flour and basting during the extended oven time. I made them in advance, and was pleased by their appearance. My husband gave the thumbs up after tasting one.

The glaze for the pork chops took some time and effort, but I could taste test it along the way. It seemed appropriately tangy with a little sweetness.

I set the oven to 400 degrees and scrubbed the potatoes. I opened cans of green beans (don’t frown; I sprinkled them with freshly crisped bacon bits and minced onion). All seemed in order.

People arrived. Laughter mingled with the succulent smell of roasting pork. Everyone snacked on the wings, licking their fingers. It boggled my mind: finger-licking good chicken – that I made from scratch.

Dinner time arrived. I set everything on the table. Guests gathered round, passed the dishes and served up their plates.

I picked up my fork and knife to slice open my baked potato. I had all the necessary toppings lined out in pretty crystal bowls: sour cream, butter, chives, bacon bits.

Rather than a rush of steam, resistance and a decided crunch greeted my utensils. I pushed open the clamshell halves and noticed the middle of the potato had a wet sheen. I poked it with my fork without satisfactory results.

Perhaps I was the only one whose potato wasn’t cooked completely. *Shakes head* Such an innocent, still prone to wishful thinking.

The obligatory compliments began as everyone sampled their food. The pork might have been slightly dry, but the flavor was exceptional. Green beans are so much better with bacon. And on and on.

“I like my potatoes crunchy,” one of the men said. To demonstrate his honesty, he sliced off a chunk and popped it in his mouth. What was that sound? Was he eating potato chips?

My appetite fled along with any desire to ever cook for a group of people again. At that moment the idea of eating anything plagued me worse than morning sickness.

Needless to say, I have cooked for people from my husband’s office (nerve-racking to the ultimate), visiting evangelists (you expect preachers to be polite) and large family gatherings.

Every time I experience the same panic beforehand. At least for Thanksgiving dinner this year, I knew what food was on the menu. Of course, my turkey baking skills are mostly limited to turkey breasts, since that is what my husband prefers.

Fortunately with a few keystrokes, I can Google “easy turkey roasting” and find a bevy of step-by-step instructions, complete with photographs. Some of them even have videos.

Being a great hostess is a mite easier these days. I have yet to master the art, however.

I can’t imagine Martha Stewart looking to Google for help. I know my mother in law, hostess extraordinaire of the authentic kind, uses the Internet from time to time, but mostly to add something new to her tried and true.

What I enjoy about Mrs. Hughson is that she can sit and visit with her guests or work them in the kitchen with the confidence of a professional. If something is done early, she never panics. She makes plenty of food (enough for the entire county) so there’s no worry folks will go hungry.

What do you think makes an excellent hostess? Is it the food or the atmosphere that you believe takes the most skill to master?

 

 

Black Friday

People set their alarms for 3 am on this day after Thanksgiving. I didn’t even turn mine on.

People line up outside of retailers, shivering and soaking, to find the best deal on the newest gadgets. Maybe they just want to stock up on socks.

It’s the biggest shopping day of the year. Supposedly, people are spending all this money on Christmas gifts.

Why do they call it “Black Friday” anyway? This name holds a portent of evil for me. Any day called “Black” must be bad.

I think the name might be from the point of the retailers. They are going to “be in the black” after they sell out their stock. Too bad those shoppers won’t be able to say the same thing.

Maybe they call it “Black Friday” because the sales all start when it’s still black outside.

I know for certain I won’t be darkening the doors for any of these sales. I believe I went to one store about 15 years ago (for the socks) and since I went at a reasonable hour (10 am), most of the stock was depleted.

That was enough for me. It proved to be a total waste of time.

Mr. Wonderful went out several times when he was hoping to purchase a game system for our kids or some new release games and movies for an ultra-low price.

Most of the time, he struck out too. He didn’t line up outside the store. He pulled up at 6 am when the doors opened. By the time he got inside, the crowd-drawing items were sold out.

He even stood in line for over an hour one time to purchase two games. Crazy, isn’t it?

Now, he’s all about Cyber Monday. I’m happy to let him do the shopping. I do the wrapping once everything arrives on our doorstep.

My idea of holiday shopping: filling my online shopping cart with gift cards from Amazon. It’s a gift that would delight me. It’s even on the list I received from my niece, and I know my nephew happily spent the one I gave him last year.

When it’s black outside, I’m asleep.

My plans for Black Friday are the same every year. Clean the house and put out the Christmas decorations. Eat Thanksgiving leftovers (usually with my in-laws).

In this way, I can answer the Capital One query: “What’s in your wallet?” The same amount of cash as the day before, thank you very much.

I’m Thankful

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I’ve mentioned this several times, but it bears repeating. I’m even looking forward to it this year when I’m going to be the hostess.

I’m not the hostess with the mostest, I can tell you. I’m the hostess who serves crunchy baked potatoes. Or doesn’t have enough of the main dish to go around. Or stresses out so much about every little thing that she can’t enjoy the moment.

Not this time. This time, I’m counting on my sister to bring her awesome cornbread stuffing and taco dip. My mom will bring green bean casserole and pumpkin pie. My husband will help me hoist the hefty turkey into the oven at the appropriate hour so it finishes cooking by 2:30, when everything else can then go in the oven to be cooked.

It’s not about the stuffing. I love stuffing. I could eat turkey and stuffing slathered in homemade gravy and nothing else and feel extremely thankful. I repeat: it’s not about the stuffing.

I love Thanksgiving because it reminds me to be thankful. I may be thankful to the many people in my life who love me, but most of my thanks go heavenward. After all, I wouldn’t even be breathing if it weren’t for the Almighty God who holds creation in the palm of His hand.

I’m thankful for my husband. He’s a great provider for our family: financially, spiritually, and physically. That’s why I call him Mr. Wonderful.

I’m thankful for my sons. They work hard in their endeavors. They have brilliant minds and entertaining personalities. Watching them conquer the world makes every sacrifice I made for them worthwhile.

I’m thankful for my sister. After all, she’s the one bringing the stuffing. No, kidding aside, she inspires me to be my best, to try things that scare me and most of all to follow my dream of becoming a published author.

I’m thankful for my mother and stepfather. Mom has been fighting cancer for several years and she inspires me to keep going forward when things seem impossible. Her strong personality is the cornerstone of my own willfulness. (Really, that’s a good thing.) My stepfather has stood by her and loved her through all of these trials. Thank you.

I’m thankful for my nephews and niece. They’ve faced difficult times these past few years and it hasn’t stopped them from becoming the people God wants them to be. They make me proud to be an aunt.

I’m thankful for my home. It’s big enough to host this host for Thanksgiving dinner.

I’m thankful for more than I could list in this post without losing the interest of my readers. Suffice it to say, I’m thankful that Jesus Christ is my Savior. I’m thankful that God plays an important role in my everyday life.

I’m thankful that I can pursue my dream to be a published author. I pray every day: “Lord, let me use this gift for your glory.”

What are you thankful for today?